Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2018 Issue

What to Do About a "Raging Bigot" of a Bookseller?

37295e14-d79d-4d41-a7a9-509083e9d1e9

Bigotry on display.

It wasn't the best of publicity for the antiquarian book trade. Actually, it wasn't particularly a book trade issue. Every type of business has its good and its bad. Still, a story about a bookseller in "The Ethicist's" column of the New York Times Magazine under the heading "Should I Keep Working for a Raging Bigot?" is not the kind of publicity you like to see.

 

The unnamed inquirer describes himself as "a graduate student in a program designed to prepare you for a career working with rare books and manuscripts." He works for an "antiquarian bookseller." This is good. We need more people pursuing the time-honored trade. He then pays his boss a compliment, saying, "It is just the two of us, and he pays me very well, allows me to work the hours I want, gives me a good deal of responsibility and is willing to give me in-depth training." All's well so far, but then, "He is, however, racist, homophobic, transphobic, bigoted and sexist." These attributes are definitely not so nice.

 

The writer's dilemma is whether to quit working for the man or is it acceptable since he is working for the experience and the money and would never hold such views himself. The Times' Ethicist obviously finds this situation challenging, at first seeming to support that he take a firmer stand about not discussing politics, but then noting he might get fired. If so, he could then consult an employment lawyer, or if he can't afford one, check with a clinic at a local law school (presuming there is one). This isn't a very satisfying answer for what is probably a graduate student struggling to scrape by day to day.

 

Ultimately, the Ethicist favors expressing his dissent more plainly so long as it is not of such magnitude as to jeopardize his employment. After all, the student is not responsible for the bookseller's behavior, and "leaving your job in protest would open up a spot — for another white man." The Ethicist's final suggestion is, at the end of his employment, to confront his boss "more forthrightly."

 

I will not render an opinion on this dilemma. We have all faced it, if not with bosses then with friends, family, neighbors, and such that express such obnoxious opinions. Is it better to confront, knowing the odds of success in changing that person's mind are about as great as finding an undiscovered Gutenberg Bible at a yard sale, or just let it slide? Since the New York Times is not paying me to offer ethical judgments, I'll stay out of it. But, here is what surprises me about this exchange. Are there really antiquarian booksellers who think like this?

 

The answer to the above question is, of course, yes. There are people like this in every field. Still, it is more disheartening and surprising to hear about them in the book trade. After all, book collecting doesn't generally attract illiterate, uneducated people, the kind you would most likely expect to hold racist and bigoted views. Book buyers are mostly the enlightened, book burners the ignorant.

 

What is such a person doing in our trade? It is doubtful that a person with such views otherwise conceals them, expressing them to no one other than his powerless assistant. Customers, who, as we know, are always right, could confront such comments if they are expressed. They hold the upper hand. Most importantly, fellow booksellers, who likely interact with this individual in trade organizations, at book shows, or through transactions, should make their views clear. Perhaps, trade groups, whose codes of ethics have naturally been focused on ethical treatment of customers, should address these broader concerns as well. All of us associated with books, as buyers, sellers, researchers, writers, serious readers, should make it clear that this is not who we are. We aren't. Peer pressure is more likely to have an impact than is that coming from a powerless underling.

 

Here is a link to The Ethicist's column: www.nytimes.com/2017/11/29/magazine/should-i-keep-working-for-a-raging-bigot.html.


Posted On: 2018-01-03 01:09
User Name: Bkwoman

I have been in the book business for more than 25 years and have met a few bigots and LGBT-haters, et al. I'm always stunned that this is so. I have partners in my book business now who are bigots and generally disapprove of anyone who is not white, the other partners are just like me, they approve of good, intelligent people, even if they are green martians who worship earthworms and cross-dress. Who cares anyway? Drives me nuts how much time those people waste hating....


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Joseph F. Kernan, <i>College Football,</i> oil on canvas, <i>The Saturday Evening Post</i> cover, 1932. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Joseph C. Leyendecker, <i>Golfer Lighting a Cigarette,</i> oil on canvas, c.1920. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Howard Chandler Christy, <i>In the Field,</i> charcoal & watercolor, published in <i>Scribner’s,</i> 1902. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> N.C. Wyeth, <i>Standish Reading,</i> pen & ink, for <i>The Courtship of Miles Standish,</i> 1920. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Johnanna Stewart Mapes, <i>A Fairy Book,</i> conté crayon, for <i>St. Nicholas Magazine,</i> 1907. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Arnold Lobel, pen & ink, for <i>The Frog & Toad Coloring Book,</i> 1981. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Antonio Lopez, <i>Today’s Fashions,</i> study for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1981. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Charles Schulz, <i>“I’ll have to go back to the house…I forgot my rubbers…”</i> pen & ink, original 4-panel <i>Peanuts comic,</i> 1960. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Constantin Alajalov, <i>Family Tree,</i> watercolor and gouache, cover for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1938. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
    <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
    <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
  • <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br>Mrs S. C. Belnos.</b> <i>The Sundhya or the Daily Prayers of the Brahmins,</i> 1st edition, 1851. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br>Sir Harry Darell.</b> <i>China, India, Cape of Good Hope and Vicinity,</i> 1st edition, 1852. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br><i>Scots Magazine,</i></b> 61 volumes, 1739-1800. With important maps of North America. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Ian Fleming.</b> <i>Casino Royale,</i> 1st edition, 1953. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Virginia Woolf.</b> <i>Really and Truly,</i> 1915. Autograph confessions book. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Evelyn Waugh.</b> <i>Vile Bodies,</i> 1st edition, 1930. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>J. R. R. Tolkien.</b> Autograph letter signed on Old English, with corrected typescript. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Lewis Carroll.</b> <i>The Hunting of the Snark,</i> 1st edition, 1876. Presentation copy. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Essex House Press.</b> <i>Poems of William Shakespeare,</i> 1899. One of 450 copies. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Lafcadio Hearn.</b> <i>A Japanese Miscellany,</i> 1st edition, 1901. Presentation copy. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Jules Verne.</b> <i>Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas,</i> 1st UK edition, 1873. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Charles Dickens.</b> <i>The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit,</i> 1st edition, 1844. Original cloth binding. £800 to £1,200.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Carolina Parrot, Plate 26.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $125,000 to $175,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Fish Hawk or Osprey, Plate 81.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $145,000 to $175,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Brown Pelican, Plate 421.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $75,000 to $100,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> DE BRY, Johann Theodore, attributed to. Pair of Watercolor studies of Tulips. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> FUERTES, Louis Agassiz. <i>Alaskan Brown Bear.</i> Watercolor and gouache on board. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> HILL, Thomas. <i>Big Trees.</i> Oil on canvas. c. 1903. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> GOULD, John. <i>A Monograph of the Macropodidae or Family of Kangaroos.</i> London: by the author, August 1st 1841-May 1st 1842. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> GOULD, John. <i>A Monograph of the Odontophorinae, or Partridges of America.</i> London: Richard and John E. Taylor for the Author, [1844]-1850. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> JANSSONIUS, Joannes. <i>Atlantis majoris quinta pars, orbem maritimum seu omnium marium…</i> Amsterdam: Joannes Janssonius, 1652. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> DONCKER, Hendrik. <i>De Zee-Atlas ofte Water-Waereld, vertoonende alle de Zee-Kusten van het bekende deel des Aerd-Bodems.</i> Amsterdam: Henrick Doncker, [1658-1665]. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> BURR, David. <i>Map of the City and County of New York with the Adjacent Country.</i> Engraved map with original hand color. Ithaca, NY: Stone & Clark, 1839. $9,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> CURRIER, Nathaniel and IVES, James Merritt. <i>The City of New York.</i> Lithograph with original hand color. New York: Currier & Ives, 1884. $15,000 to $20,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions